ICv2 recently spoke with Hollywood veteran Jason Hoffs, Head of Production at Viz Productions, about the new film production arm of Viz Media based here in the States.  In Part Three, Hoffs talks about markets outside of North America and how that affects film development, the scale of the vast manga library Viz Productions has access to for its film projects, and some genres that might work well.


In Part One, he talks about manga source material for Viz Productions films and how those films could work in both domestic and international markets.  In Part Two, he discusses possibilities for licensing to studios vs. producing in-house and decisions about format and distribution. 


You’re focused on making American productions.  To what degree do markets outside of North America affect what you’re trying to do?  Do you have an eye to the home market for these properties, or are you really looking primarily at the North American and European market?

I don’t know the exact percentage, but I believe the way the pie is cut up is that the rest of the world outside of  North America accounts for about 60% of the worldwide theatrical gross.  So I think the studios are increasingly looking globally, and I believe Japan is the number two theatrical market in the world, so Japan is important to anybody.  I presume it will be particularly important to us, since some of our properties are so beloved and our corporate parents are there.  I think every movie that’s made now, frankly, is made with an eye toward international box office, international DVD, international television and everything else.


We feel like the movies have to appeal to a domestic U.S. audience, but there may be specific opportunities where there’s an extraordinary piece of material that is uniquely Japanese where we would want to shoot it, localize it, in Japanese mostly for the Japanese market.  I just don’t know exactly.  What we don’t want to do is take anything that is intrinsically Japanese and rob it of its essence, but I’d be proud to make a movie in Japan in Japanese from one our properties.  All the studios have created international divisions to produce movies for a budget usually, locally.  So I’d love to work with some of these companies--like Fox International and Sony, companies that are aggressively doing this--and trying to do movies that are localized in Japan if it makes economic sense.


And by the way, we’re going to be having specific announcements about movie deals, in the relatively near future.


To put this in context, when Marvel talks about their film efforts, they talk about the size of their library and how many characters they have.  Do you have any sense of how many characters or properties are available from the libraries you’re drawing from?

We are finding some classic manga properties that may be buried deep somewhere in the Shogakukan library that are beloved (and may even be out of print) that would make amazing American movie adaptations.  There’s so much rich content going back decades.  Also we’re finding that there are new properties that are just being launched in Japan that Viz hasn’t even published that are potentially fantastic movies as well.


There are thousands of different manga titles that our corporate parents have published. I’m sure this is one of the largest pools of largely untapped--at least in the U.S.--international properties that exists in the world.


Hakusensha is not an owner of the production company, but you have access to titles for movie and TV rights?

That is our understanding.


Does that include the rights to Fruits Basket?

I don’t know.  Tokyopop publishes Fruits Basket in the U.S.  It’s a great manga, but it’s not one that we’ve discussed.


How do you think comedies and teen romance properties would work for the U.S. market?

We certainly want to do comedy. As a male in my 40s, there’s one area of our manga universe that I think is incredibly fertile for film and television and that’s the shojo titles--like Vampire Knight and Absolute Boyfriend.  They’re just powerful, compelling teenage relationships.  The shojo titles that are character and relationship based that exist in larger than life worlds are very appealing for film adaptation.


Monster was announced as optioned for a live action with New Line with Josh Olson writing the screenplay, is that option still out there or is the project moving forward?

I don’t know.  We’re not involved with it.  I know Josh was on it a few months ago, but we’re not sure what the exact status is.